Today is my stop on the blog tour for "The Longest Farewell" by Nula Suchet, a LoveBooksTour.
Please check out the other stops on the tour, we all offer different content.
When Nula's husband James, a British documentary filmmaker, becomes forgetful they put it down to the stress of his work. But his behavior becomes more erratic and inexplicable, and he is eventually diagnosed as suffering from Picks Disease, an early onset and aggressive form of dementia. Suddenly their lives change from comfortable middle-class creatives through inexplicable behaviour, the shock of diagnosis, coping with the ongoing illness, not coping with the illness, to the indignities of care home life.
The Longest Farewell is a moving description of James utter mental and physical deterioration, and the effect that it had both on him and on the people from whom he was involuntarily retreating, particularly Nula. Her life is completely taken over by James illness: her frustration at trying to cope, her guilt at having to hand over his care to professionals in England, are just part of her at times harrowing story.
With James in care and left with seemingly little to do but wait for his death, Nula meets Bonnie, another resident at the care home suffering from the same condition. In turn she meets Bonnie's husband, the broadcaster John Suchet and the similarity of their positions becomes a bond between them. After the deaths of James and Bonnie, and some guilt-induced false starts, Nula's story takes a bitter-sweet turn: they become partners, and eventually marry. The Longest Farewell is a heartfelt yet inspiring account of dealing with dementia, and of unexpectedly finding a happy ending.
About the author
Nula Suchet was born in Ireland, part of a large family. After a difficult early life she became an interior designer who worked internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. Now retired, she lives in London with her husband, the broadcaster John Suchet, who she met in the care home where their spouses were being cared for with dementia. Her book, The Longest Farewell, on dealing with her husband's dementia and the heartbreak that came with it is available now.
You can find the author on Twitter
For my stop I have my review.
The Longest Farewell: James, Dementia and Me by Nula Suchet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Time taken to read - 1 day
Pages - 280
Publisher - Seren
Source - Review book
Blurb from back cover
Dementia crept early into the life of James Black, insidious and unannounced. The result was a long farewell to him as he changed from a happy and successful film maker into a completely dependent care home resident, and stranger to his wife Nula.
Yet after seven stressful years, Nula's life unexpectedly changed when she met a man whose wife was also a dementia patient in the home. Her friendship with John Suchet become a relationship, but theirs is a difficult road. There is joy, but also despair and guilt. Is even a moment of happiness allowed when their loves ones are in a slow decline towards death? Theirs is a story that plumbs the depths but also reaches a happiness that they thought they would never experience.
Told in first person narrative we step into Nula's world, from the very beginnings of something not being right, to diagnosis and thereafter living with her husband's descent into dementia. I have read a few books about dementia now, Suchet's is different in that this is her story, her footsteps, her life living with the devastation brought about by dementia. Written almost in diary format, Sachet writes down her experiences and shapes it together into this book, her pre, during and post dementia.
Often we hear or see dementia affecting our loved ones as they age but some people see their lives turned upside down by it coming much earlier. This is what happens with James, James is still young, fit, has a career and a very happy marriage. Nula starts to notice small things, things that can be explained away however as more incidents happen Nula can no longer ignore it. With her very honest recollections we, the reader, live each of them and walk down the road as dementia strips her husband of everything that made him him.
Often when we hear dementia we see older adults, elderly and devastating as they loose who they are, their memories, their abilities. In this book, as well as all of that we see a different side, that of a wife losing her husband, the intimacy, the suspicion from people when they see a middle age man "acting out". The struggles of simple things such as going out for a meal, trying to travel, trying to get help when she finally accepted she needed it and what she endured before she got to that stage.
The book also looks at an unlikely friendship, a kindred spirit experiencing the loss that Nula is living and the guilt that is associated. How do you experience joy, a moment for yourself, happiness, friendship without guilt when you are watching the person you love slowly lose everything about themselves. An emotive book, it makes you want to grab your loved ones and hug them hard, appreciate what you have because you never know the minute. 4.5/5 for me this time, I need to look up the book written by John, the friend she makes who is also experiencing the same loss/heartache as his wife goes through a similar journey to James.
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